The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.
He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December. It is worth some nine million Swedish crowns (about £730,000).
When Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume peace talks with Eritrea. In close cooperation with Isaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea, he quickly worked out the principles of a peace agreement to end the stalemate between the two countries.
The Nobel Committee said: “Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future. He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalising outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.”
But Mr Abiy’s reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.
Prime Minister Abiy has engaged in other peace and reconciliation processes in East and Northeast Africa.
In September 2018 he and his government contributed actively to the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Eritrea and Djibouti after many years of political hostility. Additionally, Abiy Ahmed has sought to mediate between Kenya and Somalia in their protracted conflict over rights to a disputed marine area. There is now hope for a resolution to this conflict.
Following the announcement, Mr Abiy said he was “humbled and thrilled.”
“Thank you very much. It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on [the] peace-building process on our continent,” he added in a phone call with the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Mr Abiy was born in Ethiopia in 1976 to a Muslim father and Christian mother. He has several degrees, including a doctorate degree in peace and security issues and a master’s degree in transformational leadership.
As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the former Derg regime – a Communist military junta that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. He later served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda.
He joined politics in 2010, becoming a member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, before being elected as a member of parliament.
His time as an MP coincided with clashes between Muslims and Christians. He devised a lasting solution to the problem by setting up a “Religious Forum for Peace.”